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Keeping the Books Balanced When You Don't Understand Them

January 8, 2018

 You didn’t start a business to learn how to read a balance sheet. Yet here you are, pulling extra hours, trying in vain to understand some of the reports that QuickBooks has provided you.

To top it off, your business has grown so much that you can’t keep up with your basic bookkeeping, which you didn’t have a good grasp of in the first place. You learned enough to send invoices and accept payments, pay bills, and analyze basic reports.

You clearly need help with accounting, but you can’t afford—nor do you need—a full-time employee yet. You’d like to teach the basics to someone and have them progress beyond your limited knowledge to learn the more complex accounting tasks you know you’re beginning to need. Here are your options:

  1. Hire a part-time bookkeeper who will need additional training to learn about your business, its financial structure, and your specific needs.
  2. Hand the task over to an existing employee who is smart, learns quickly, and is trustworthy.
  3. Bring in professional training help.

Learning to Train

Your goal is to start building a competent, reliable accounting department that can supply you with the financial information you need to make smart business decisions. If you choose the first or second option, you’re on the hook for some of the early training responsibilities.

Recognizing that you have limitations in both accounting knowledge and training procedures, there are several things you should keep in mind as you begin this journey:

Don’t assume a certain level of knowledge. What may be obvious to you is not necessarily known by your trainee. Explain everything.

Encourage questions and comments. Make clear from the start the critical nature of this work, and the importance of understanding every detail thoroughly.

Train by module.  Break processes down into core components and provide step-by-step instructions.

Don’t try to complete the training in one long session. Give your trainee some time to absorb the current material. QuickBooks comes with two sample company files. Let your employee practice using that data.

Start each session by reviewing what you taught in the previous one. This will allow you to test the trainee’s retention.

Let the trainee take his or her own notes rather than composing your own informal manual. You may want to prepare some written content covering key points, but encourage the individual to document processes in a way that will be understandable – and to keep those notes available after training is complete.

Have your own hotline. What will you do if your trainee asks questions that you can’t answer? Intuit offers numerous resources, like tutorials and user guides.

Be available for questions after the training is complete. And spot-check the trainee's work.

Getting Expert Assistance

Training is a specialized skill. If you’re patient, articulate, and willing to learn some things you don’t already know, you may be able to lay the groundwork for a capable accounting department in the future.

If you find, though, that you’re in over your head, acknowledge that reality before you’ve wasted time unnecessarily, confused your trainee, and compromised your company data.

We’ve worked successfully with small businesses in similar situations, helping in one of two ways. We can get your employee up to speed on QuickBooks and serve as an expert resource, monitoring his or her progress and taking care of more complex tasks like financial reports, reconciliation, payroll, and taxes.

Or if you would like us to take over your entire accounting operations so you can focus on managing your business, we can do that, too. Connect with us at 816-743-7700, and we’ll come up with the best plan for your company.


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